The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

What's the Presidency For?"

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

On June 12, actor Robert Redford wrote an editorial in USA Today criticizing the president for taking little to no action with respect to global warming…oh pardon…climate change.   Redford stated, “Clearly, the president understands the climate issue.  But he owes more to future generations than his intellectual acknowledgement about the hardships they will face if nothing is done to address it.  He owes them action.”

Loathe to any criticism from any of his supporters, especially the Hollywood elite that have lots of fundraisers, I figured the president would speak out within a few weeks on the climate change issue.   Sure enough, he announced yesterday that he will order the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft rules to reduce greenhouse gases emissions from existing and new power plants plus other “green energy” initiatives.  This undertaking will have a huge effect on coal-fired power plants, shutting down and preventing the building of new ones.  Considering approximately 50 percent of our electricity comes from coal-fired plants, Americans need to be concerned about future energy costs.

In addition, Obama claims he will allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built only if the project “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”  The problem with the president’s claim however is that the Canadians will sell their oil and we can either purchase it or China, a country with a poor environmental record and much higher green-house gas emissions, will buy it.

The Wall Street Journal put it this way:

President Obama's climate speech on Tuesday was grandiose even for him, but its surreal nature was its particular hallmark.  Some 12 million Americans still can't find work, real wages have fallen for five years, three-fourths of Americans now live paycheck to check, and the economy continues to plod along four years into a quasi-recovery.  But there was the President in tony Georgetown, threatening more energy taxes and mandates that will ensure fewer jobs, still lower incomes and slower growth.

Mr. Obama's ‘climate action plan’ adds up to one of the most extensive reorganizations of the U.S. economy since the 1930s, imposed through administrative fiat and raw executive power. He wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020, but over his 6,500-word address he articulated no such goal for the unemployment rate or GDP.”

Members of Congress aren’t very happy either.  Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) said:

The regulations the President wants to force on coal are not feasible.  And if it’s not feasible, it’s not reasonable…It’s clear now that the President has declared a war on coal.  It’s simply unacceptable that one of the key elements of his climate change proposal places regulations on coal that are completely impossible to meet with existing technology.”

So all this is being done in the name of lowering green-house gases and preventing climate change.  Perhaps the president should have read The New York Times earlier this month before deciding on such a draconian intervention in our energy sector.  The Times reported:

The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that.  And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts.

But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.”

Sounds like scientists are unsure exactly what is going on with the climate and contrary to what Al Gore says, the science is not settled after all.

Robert Redford noted in his op-ed that what separates presidents we remember from those that we don’t are the ones that act on their convictions.  He told a story of how an ally of President Johnson advised him not to use his political capital to try to muscle through civil rights legislation through Congress.  Johnson replied, “Hell, what's the presidency for?"

President Obama has said, “Believe me -- believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting.  I promise you… But that's not how -- that's not how our system works.”

Congress has objected to cap-and trade legislation and other recent carbon reducing initiatives because of the negative effect it will have on our economy while doing nothing to change the world’s climate.  Will President Obama be like President Johnson and lead the way and work with Congress?  Apparently not as he has decided he will get what he wants by executive decree – by doing things on his own.  He should remember this is not how our system works.

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